With the fall of SK Gaming and FaZe Clan’s inability to win when it counts, an argument can be made that there are no elite teams in CS:GO. Some teams are on the rise, but have yet to establish themselves as proven contenders for all the big tournaments in the calendar. With a lot of doubt at the top of the CS:GO scenes, which teams will rise above the rest and consistently challenge for the big events coming up?
Are FaZe going to remain the best?
The closest thing we have to an elite team right now is FaZe Clan, and you could still make an argument to classify them as such. With a team led by the fragging trio of Nikola “NiKo” Kovac, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs, and Håvard “Rain” Nygaard, there is no doubt that they have the firepower to contend for titles. In group stages they still look like they have things under control, but once tournaments reach the latter stages, something suddenly goes missing. The star players take turns going absent, and there is no tactical depth to fall back on. With a roster boasting more firepower than we’ve ever seen in CS:GO, it’s no wonder that perfect tactical executes isn’t the emphasis. But after their hot start in the fall of 2017, other teams figured out their map pool, and the FaZe era ended before it even began. Some have made the argument that it’s time for a roster change in FaZe. Perhaps a player more focused on the supportive aspects of the game or different leadership is what they need. The roster has now been active for nearly six months, and without significant changes I wouldn’t count on a FaZe revival any time soon.
Mousesports, a true contender?
More than most other teams, Mousesports has taken advantage of the absence of elite contenders in CS:GO. Their tournament win at StarSeries was undoubtedly impressive, but with the favorites taken care of before Mousesports could face them, one has to wonder what would’ve happened, had Mousesports faced off against their fellow international roster, FaZe Clan. The same thing happened at the most recent event, the V4 Future Sports Festival. FaZe were taken care of by another team, and Mousesports took home the trophy off the back of wins against HellRaisers and Virtus.pro. With that said, Mousesports is a team trending upward and the team I'd consider the closest to being considered among the elite. One thing Mousesports have going for them is their home map Mirage. With wins over nearly every other top team in the world, it’s hard not to consider them the absolute best in the world on the map. Since no top teams ban Mirage permanently, Mousesports can pick the map in any BO3 and be considered the favorite. The problem with Mousesports' map pool is the lack of depth. Both Train and Inferno look solid, but once you go beyond that there is a lot of question marks. We’ve only seen them play the newest iteration of Nuke once on LAN, and while they came out victorious, it’s not enough of a sample size to make a conclusion. If they’re able to play Nuke to the same level they have previously, it’s another map where they can be considered among the best in the world. They’ve been willing to play Cobblestone, but this has mostly resulted in defeats. Meanwhile, Cache and Overpass are predominantly banned by the team. Most elite teams in history have been good on at least 5 maps, something you can’t say for Mousesports at the moment. If they are to remain at the top that’s an issue they have to fix.
Another key for Mousesports will be the development of Robin “Ropz” Kool. Their star trio which also includes Tomas “Oskar” Stastny and Miikka “suNny” Kemppi is great, but while the others are mostly known quantities considering their experience, Ropz still has room to grow. One thing to remember is despite his high level of play, Ropz has only been active as a pro player for less than a year. With his lack of experience, it’s possible he could become even better. If Mousesports can improve their map pool, and Ropz takes the next step to become one of the absolute best players in the world, they will become a force to be reckoned with.
Don't be fooled by Natus Vincere
Mousesports' opponent in the StarSeries Season 4 Finals was Natus Vincere. In one of the greatest individual tournament performances of all time, Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev led his team to a 2nd place finish. When you combine that with a semifinal at the ELEAGUE Boston Major, you could be fooled into believing that Na’Vi are close to becoming an elite team. Having the best player in the world on your side is a great piece for achieving that, but most of the squad is flawed. Egor “Flamie” Vasilyev has proven himself to be a good fragger, but that’s where it stops for Na’Vi. It looks like Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev and Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko have had their best days behind them. In terms of fragging, neither are performing up to par, and the leadership of Zeus leaves a lot to be desired. When s1mple isn’t winning rounds on his own, the tactics of Na’Vi look atrocious outside of a few key maps.
Meanwhile, Denis “Electronic” Sharipov was supposed to be the next big thing in the CIS region, but ever since joining Na’Vi, he has been far from it. His best performance as of late was at WESG as part of Team Russia, and you have to wonder if Zeus is using him in the correct role to make him play to the best of his ability. Regardless, Na’Vi’s tournament lives are almost entirely dependent on s1mple. Once he goes missing on the occasional map, they suddenly look average. If Na’Vi have any aspirations of being a consistent top contender, the rest of the team needs to step it up and help their superstar player.
What about Fnatic?
Another team that secured themselves tournament victories recently is Fnatic. Ever since Maikil “Golden” Selim and Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson joined their ranks, they’ve been steadily improving, culminating in a victory at the IEM Katowice 2018. Similarly to Mousesports, Fnatic are solid on their home maps. For the Swedes, victories on Inferno and Mirage are often the keys to their deep tournament runs. Cobblestone is also solid, but after that you begin to see the issues. While Fnatic inexplicably found ways to victory against FaZe on Cache, Overpass, and Train in Katowice, they rarely get victories on those maps. Train is played by the Swedes, but on Cache and Overpass, the wins are greatly outweighed by the losses.
When you combine the unlikely map wins with the fact that Robin “Flusha” Rönnquist had an all time great performance in the final, their IEM victory should be considered an anomaly. Their win at WESG was mainly the result of an easy road, and despite the prize money, it can’t be considered a fantastic tournament victory. Despite Fnatic being ranked highly, they still have a lot more to prove, before they can be considered in the same league as some of the great Fnatic lineups of the past.
With the shake-ups of rosters in the scene, other contenders will emerge. G2 Esports and their recent addition of Oscar “Mixwell” Canellas have yet to play on LAN, and the rumors of changes in both SK Gaming and Cloud9 are running rampant. Teams like Astralis and Team Liquid have also made recent changes, and perhaps neither of them have shown us their full potential.
Every top team in CS:GO is showing clear flaws, and the title as best team in the world is perhaps as up for grabs as it’s ever been. With no clear favorite to take the number one spot, DreamHack Masters Marseille cannot come soon enough.
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